Rising seas: A state-of-the-art Franco-American satellite will monitor ocean levels from space

Franco-American SWOT satellite (for Surface water and ocean topography) represented by “a revolution in the field of hydrology“, Selma Cherchali, an employee of France’s Center National Etudes Spatiales (CNES), said at a press conference on Tuesday. Observations will be made.”It is 10 times more accurate than current technology“.

The flight was carried out on Friday at 11:46 GMT by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from America’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. SWOT will begin its scientific mission after six months of testing and calibration, and the data collected will be posted online and made available to everyone.

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Measure the height of oceans and freshwater bodies

Lakes, rivers and oceans: this new satellite, which will operate at an altitude of 890 kilometers, should allow live observation of the water cycle on a global scale. Or the exchange between these huge reservoirs of water through the atmosphere, namely the oceans, and water flowing on Earth. At least once every 21 days, the satellite will be able to measure the height of the oceans and freshwater bodies covering more than 90% of the planet’s surface.

Until now, only a few thousand lakes could be observed from space, but SWOT will be able to see millions of them – from just 250 meters away. The satellite will also be able to study almost any river more than 100 meters wide, including the volume of water flowing through them.

It will be able to detect never-before-seen currents and eddies in the oceans. On the coasts, observing the retreat of the land as a result of rising water. If NASA is already running about 25 space missions to observe the planet, SWOT will be one.how to wear glasses“To see better,” said Karen St., director of Earth observation at NASA. compared to Germain.

From a scientific perspective, SWOT should help us better understand climate change. And especially “how much heat and carbon“The oceans still have the capacity to absorb,” said Katherine Calvin, NASA’s climate change advisor.

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Be better prepared for drought, flooding and coastal erosion

We know that the water cycle is accelerating with climate changee,” added NASA scientist Benjamin Hamlington.This means that some places have too much water and some places not enough. We see more extreme droughts or floods. (…) Dso it’s important to understand exactly what’s going on.” From a practical perspective, the information collected will allow local communities to better prepare for these events or coastal erosion.

The satellite will allow “to become better at predicting when floods will occur“, Karen St. Germain emphasized. And where water is scarce, it will bring “essential information for smart management“from this source.

SWOT is the first satellite to test an entirely new technology in its primary science instrument, called KaRIn, designed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A radar signal is sent down to the ground, reflected by the surface of the water, and simultaneously picked up by two large antennas, giving a two-dimensional image, thereby allowing the water height to be calculated.

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The assembly of the magnificent satellite (2.2 tons) took place in France and took 14 months. The mission was originally supposed to last three and a half years, but is likely to last up to five years, even if “more years“According to Thierry Lafon, head of the SWOT project at CNES. A long mission will be decisive”because we will need this information for a long time“.

Also read:

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Global warming, heat wave, floods: which are the least affected regions in France?

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